In a packed out City Hall, a grand piano takes centre stage. Tom Odell has embraced the sad-man-who-plays-the-piano schtick with both hands. It’s hard to imagine him without the it; or even settling for an upright. Yet after over ninety minutes of energetic and at times hair-raising piano bar bop, he seems poised for something new altogether.
Considering this is the Jubilee Road tour, it would be nice to have the album in hand – but that won’t be with us till later this month. However Odell draws from it heavily, and these songs – ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’, ‘Half As Good As You’ & ‘You’re Gonna Break My Heart Tonight’ – are some of the strongest of the evening. They suggest a move towards classic piano rock in the vein of Billy Joel, with a little cabaret Bowie in the mix too.
When Odell arrives – a shock of blonde hair on a gangly frame – the excess of wooping from the crowd suggests some in the audience aren’t here just for the love of music. Odell’s disarmingly gawky body language reminds you for all the world of the intro to Harry Enfield & Chums. However it proves a useful foil for his earnest music and grounds his trembling & passionate vocals.
What’s more, Odell does not rest on his laurels as a performer. While this sit-down venue would excuse someone sat at a piano full set – Odell bounds around stage, theatrically tossing about the mic chord. At one point he stands on the body of the grand, ushering the audience to stand for the remainder of the set. He bounds into the crowd, standing on a chair and dancing with a delighted and /or shell-shocked fan before knocking back the remainder of someone’s pint – mostly over himself.
The stage design is simple, but effective – large hanging tapestries in place of an album cover blow-up. The band are tight all night, and while Odell is yet to write anything exciting for guitar or bass, the drummer is a delight, syncopating wherever possible and turbo-charging each arrangement.
With the set closing on the lackadaisical ‘Concrete’ and the anthemic, career-best ‘Magnestised’ – the night ends with rapturous applause. Tom Odell is more than a balladeer, and on this tour he sets out to prove it.